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New Theatre League National Conference April 9 & 10 1955, Adelaide length 24'27"

Category: ASIO Surveillance Films


New Theatre was regarded by ASIO as a front organisation for the Communist Party and as such extensive files were kept on the theatre in every State in which it operated.  There's no doubt that a significant number of the functionaries of the Theatre were members of the party and it repetoire could certainly be regarded as left leaning and having a social conscience.  However, it's important to place the theatre's activities into the landscape of theatre and drama production in Australia at the time.  There were very few opportunities, in Australia,  for people who wanted to act professionally, and fewer for those who wanted to write or produce drama. The New provided such opportunities.  It took on actors, designers and writers.  It was not afraid to produce Australian made plays and gave a number of people their start in the business.  Well known actor John Hargreaves was one of the many actors whose career began at the New.  To give some understanding of the temperature of the times in the cold war, no other theatre company in the country would touch Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible.  Being a thinly disguised attack on McCarthyism the bigger companies shied away from it.  The New Theatre was the first company to perform Miller's classic in Australia.

This film shows the National Conference of the League in Adelaide in 1955.  It is a particularluy beautiful looking piece of film and shows the comings and going over a two day period.  If you watch the whole thing you begin to see the story of the weekend appear.  The first day, getting underway and concluding with people carrying beers and what looks like the makings of a party.  The next morning people start arriving but whoever has the key hasn't turned up.  Disgruntled attendees sit around.  One young girl leaves to get something and the camera follows her as she joyfully runs down a colonade.  The man with the key arrives probably the worse for wear from the previous evening and the second day gets under way.  The end of the day is almost elegaic as in the fading light the last two people wait for transport to leave.